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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: July 2009

7 - Unlimited indemnity: delegates versus viceroys

Summary

As your honour knoweth: where a practice is joined with an authority how available the same may be to compass what is expected.

Sir Richard Bingham to Walsingham, 4 September 1589

In 1594, Oxford's university press produced Richard Beacon's Solon his Follie. Beacon's work, a dialogue between Pisistratus and Epimenides on the topic of reforming corrupt commonwealths, was a thinly disguised treatment of the problems of Elizabethan Ireland. With its university imprint, Solon stands as the academic high water mark of Irish studies in the late sixteenth century. The polemic has recently attracted the interest of intellectual historians because Beacon, an English planter in Munster, stands as the clearest example we have of a full reception of Machiavelli in Elizabethan England. Markku Peltonen, in particular, has outlined the extent of Machiavelli's influence on Beacon. Not only were many of the examples Beacon employed to illustrate his arguments culled wholesale from the Discorsi, much of his analysis of the political problem that Ireland posed for the crown followed exactly the same internal logic as Machiavelli's meditations on Livy. In terms of the developing situation in Ireland, the year of publication is particularly suggestive: in 1594, Ireland was already on the verge of tumbling into that stop-start conflict, later called the Nine Year's War.

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